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How to Protect Nursing Home Residents from Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation is just one form of elder abuse that nursing home residents can experience. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), financial exploitation of the elderly is a serious concern. Some of the most concerning statistics include:

  • Financial exploitation is considered the most common type of elder abuse, with estimates suggesting that as many as five percent of Americans 60 and older experiencing financial exploitation every year.
  • Research estimates that nearly $3 billion was exploited from older Americans in 2010 alone.
  • Financial exploitation is continuing to overburden the Medicaid and Medicare systems as nearly one in ten victims will be forced to rely on these programs after losing their personal financial stability.
  • In 2011, research indicated that programs and agencies designed to protect older Americans barely scratched the surface of the real problem. Research shows that programs and protective agencies reached only one out of every 44 incidents of financial exploitation.
  • Individuals close to the victim, such as caregivers, doctors, nurses, pastors, neighbors, friends, or family members, perpetrate financial exploitation of the elderly most often.

Examples of Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation in nursing homes can occur in numerous ways. The most commonly reported examples include:

  • Forging signatures
  • Deception or coercion in signing documents, contracts, or wills
  • Theft of a resident’s money or physical possessions
  • Cashing a resident’s check
  • Improperly using a power of attorney or status as a caregiver
  • Use of technology to scam elderly residents

Families and care providers should be aware of any suspicious activity involving finances, cash, documents, or accounts. The CFPB provides the following warning signs that may indicate financial exploitation:

  • Missing documents, checks, credit cards, or statements (includes repeated checks written for “cash”, charges for items the resident did not receive/purchase, suspicious signatures, etc.)
  • Complaints of theft of money or property
  • Distress or agitation in the presence of a particular individual
  • Sudden changes in behavior, such as hoarding or hiding possessions
  • Sudden lack of basic personal needs or medications
  • Inconsistencies with statements or financial accounts
  • Unpaid bills
  • Sudden “purchasing” of gifts to nursing home staff or other residents

Protective Measures for Nursing Home Residents

In order to protect nursing home residents from financial exploitation, families and loved ones should first educate themselves about the dangers and signs of financial exploitation. Further, it is important to understand reporting methods and procedures if suspicions arise. It is beneficial for nursing home residents to place their finances in the care of a family member or other party who is capable of monitoring and managing finances properly. Some families find it beneficial to hire a financial manager or geriatric care manager to act as an objective third party.

The CFPB offers four “pillars” of intervention that can help protect nursing home residents. These pillars include:

  • Prevent: Prevent financial exploitation through methods of training and awareness
  • Recognize: Know the warning signs of exploitation and how to take action
  • Record: Always document suspicions of exploitation
  • Report: Report any suspicions to authorities

Another helpful tool for families who are suspicious of financial exploitation is contacting a nursing home abuse attorney to learn more about the rights of their loved one and possible actions to protect them. Financial exploitation is a serious problem across the U.S., and the elderly population deserves to have their rights and finances protected.